Kinematic quality of reaching movements in preterm infants

Pediatr Res. 2003 May;53(5):836-42. doi: 10.1203/01.PDR.0000058925.94994.BC. Epub 2003 Feb 20.


Many preterm infants may experience so-called minor developmental disorders; however, in general, the problems in motor behavior are not detected until school age. To introduce therapies aimed at the prevention of these problems, we need to increase our knowledge of motor function and dysfunction at early age. The present study focused on the organization of reaching movements in full-term and preterm infants without cerebral palsy. The reaching behavior of premature infants (n = 63) was assessed longitudinally at the corrected ages of 4 and 6 mo. Clinical assessments were made at 6 and 12 mo of age. On the basis of the infant's morbidity during the early stay in the neonatal intensive care unit, the preterm infants were allocated into a high-risk and a low-risk group. Results from a previous study in full-term infants (n = 13) were included. Kinematics of reaching movements in supine position were measured, and the analysis focused on movement velocity and movement units. A compound parameter of kinematic variables was created, reflecting the quality of reaching movements. The present study showed that at the age of 4 mo, low-risk preterm infants showed more often optimal reaching behavior than full-term and preterm high-risk infants. This better reaching performance was related to a better general motor and behavioral development during the first year of life. At the age of 6 mo, the advantage of the low-risk group in reaching behavior had disappeared and a disadvantage in the form of nonoptimal reaching behavior of the high-risk group emerged.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arm / physiology
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Developmental Disabilities / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature / growth & development*
  • Infant, Premature / physiology*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology*